The market seems to be crashing because of a fear of a worldwide economic slowdown, and last week a disappointing guidance from LinkedIn (LNKD) spooked many social media stocks like Facebook (FB). I think that FB was sold down far more than it should have and that it will recover soon. Today I made a trade which will make 66% on my investment (after commissions) in 25 days even if FB doesn’t gain a penny from here. I would like to share the details of this option trade with you today.
An Option Trade for Anyone Who Likes Facebook (FB)
Less than two weeks ago, Facebook had a blow-out quarter that exceeded estimates by a large margin, both on the top and bottom lines. Ad revenue from Instagram topped expectations all around, and the future looks even better, especially in this election year when candidates are finding that social media is one of the best ways to reach voters in local elections (Ted Cruz reportedly spend $10k a day on Instagram in Iowa and won the election).
After the announcement, FB soared 15% and hit a high north of $117 a couple of days later. And then LNKD announced, and the entire gain disappeared. As I write this on Monday, the stock is back down to $98.
For Q4 2015, LinkedIn actually had a decent quarter. Revenues grew by 34% over the prior-year period and beat analyst estimates by more than $4.3 million. On the bottom line, non-GAAP EPS of $0.94 smashed estimates for $0.78. Unfortunately, investors like to be more forward looking, and guidance was down – the company expects 2016 revenue of $3.6B-3.65B and EPS of $3.05-3.20, below a consensus of $3.91B and $3.67.
This guidance implies 2016 revenue growth of just 20-22%, a dramatic slowdown from the 35% seen in 2015. One analyst reported, “The problem for LNKD is that the name is heavily compared to the social media giant Facebook (FB). Fair or not, the most recent results show a large divide between the success of these firms. In another strong quarter, FB reported a GAAP profit of $2.56 billion on nearly $6 billion in revenues. For the entire year in 2015, LinkedIn didn’t even hit $3 billion in revenues and lost more than $164 million.”
FB has clearly found a way to monetize its traffic while LNKD has not, and FB was
unfairly penalized pretty much because of tepid guidance provided by a not-so-popular alternative social media company.
So what do you do if you’re an options nut and you think FB shouldn’t be trading this low? My favorite strategy is to sell what is called a vertical put credit spread. You choose a strike price which is at a number where you think the minimum price will be at some time in the future and you sell a put option at that strike while you buy a lower-strike put option in the same series. The higher-strike put option sells for more than you pay for the lower-strike put, and cash is deposited in your account when you make the trade. If you are right, both puts expire worthless and you get to keep the money that you collected when you originally placed the trade.
Here is what I did today while FB was trading just about $98:
Buy to Open 1 FB Mar-16 95 put (FB160318P95)
Sell to Open 1 FB Mar-16 97.5 put (FB160318P97.5) for $1.02 (selling a vertical)
For each contract I sold, $102 was placed in my account (less $2.50 for the commission at the cost Terry’s Tips subscribers pay at thinkorswim), for a net of $99.50. The broker will place a maintenance requirement on my account of $250 for each contract. This is not a margin loan and no interest is charged, but I can’t use that amount to buy other options or stock. Since I received $99.50 from the sale, the most I could actually lose is $150.50, and that is all that is tied up from the $250 maintenance requirement.
If FB closes at any price above $97.50 on March 18, both puts will expire worthless and I will get to keep the $99.50 I received for each contract. There will be no trade necessary and no commission to pay. That works out to a gain of 66% for the month.
If the stock falls from $98 to $97 on that date, I would have to buy back the 97.5 put for $50, so my gain would be just less than $50. The break-even price would be about $96.50 below which I would lose money up to the $150.50 maximum. In order to lose the maximum amount, FB would have to close at or below $95.
You might choose a further-out date, say April, July, or September instead of March for this trade to give the stock a little more time to move higher. You could probably get more than $1.02 for those months, but you would have to wait that much longer to be able to collect your money.
Another way to play this spread would be to select higher strike prices and hope that FB doesn’t just stay flat but moves higher. If you bought puts at the 97.5 strike and sold puts at the 100 strike, you could collect about $1.20 for the spread. If the stock ended up above $100, you would make a little less than $120 per spread on a risk of $130, or about 90%. This is a much more bullish bet because the stock has to move higher for you to collect the maximum gain. I personally think it should move this high, but I feel more comfortable betting that it at least doesn’t fall any more from here.